Low blood sugar could up dementia risk

Like many patients with diabetes, Frank Gold tightly controls his blood sugar with medicine and insulin. Some doctors told him to get his glucose levels as low as possible, but Frank has always been weary of that.

"I've known that hypoglycemia very bad," said Gold.

"In people with Type 2 diabetes, this can happen either as a result of taking too much insulin or overuse of certain oral medications," said Rachel A.Whitmer, Ph.D. Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

In a new report provided by the Journal of the American Medical Associations, researchers found episodes of low blood sugar bad enough to require a trip to the hospital could possibly raise the risk of dementia in Type 2 diabetics.

"This is a very important question to answer because we are expected to see a doubling of prevalence in dementia in the next 50 years and if the CDC estimate holds true, we will also see more Type 2 diabetes," said Whitmer.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of over 16,000 elderly patients from 1980 to 2007. They wanted to know how hypoglycemia affected patients later in life.

Of those who had serious low blood sugar episodes, 17-percent went on to be diagnosed with dementia compared to 10-percent of patient with no history of hypoglycemia.

"It really adds to the evidence base out there that perhaps very low glycemic targets might not be the best way to go in elderly patients with Type 2," said Whitmer.

Frank says the findings will help him guide the way he controls his diabetes in the future.

"Loosening up on the insulin hopefully this will keep dementia from springing up," said Gold.

Study authors hope future research will focus on brain imaging so researchers can see how severe hypoglycemic episodes affect the brain's health.



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